The words "angel", angel's" and "angels" occur 295 times in the English Standard Version of the Bible; the singular form is used more often in the Old Testament, while the plural form is employed more frequently in the New Testament. The Old Testament features a few additional references to "cherub", a type of guardian angel.
Characteristics of Angels
The Bible mentions a number of people interacting with angels and of angels intervening on behalf of people. Angels, as far as their relation to man, seem to be devoid of natural affection. That is, they relate and interact, and involve themselves with the affairs of man not motivated by personal attachments, attractions, choices, affinities, etc. They come to us from God, with a message, an act, that expresses the will and choice of their Creator alone. This provides them a certain authority transcending their own personal free will. Demons, on the other hand, involve themselves totally with their subjects, merging themselves with their oppressed, dominating all to their own evil spirit, until all seem to be "one" in destruction. Expelling a demon is therefore freeing a man to be himself once again. All this is not to say that angels have no natural affection among each other. Just that, in their relationship to mankind, they are willingly ruled by the will of God.
There is disagreement among biblical scholars as to whether or not the "sons of God" in Genesis 6:4 are angels.
Though the popular notion of an angel is that of a celestial, vaguely human being with improbably bird-like wings, the original word in Hebrew is best translated as "messenger"; thus, it is possible that many of the angels featuring in the Torah were meant to be mortal human beings doing God's work, rather than an actual supernatural manifestation per se. Of course this is not always the case such as when an angel calls to Hagar "from heaven".
Angels in the Bible
Two angels (both of whom are "archangels", who lead other angels) are mentioned by name in the Bible: Michael and Gabriel. Catholic and Orthodox tradition in the Book of Tobit also mentions Raphael by name.
In pictures angels are usually depicted as very beautiful creatures with golden hair, wings and long robes making them appear feminine. In contrast pictures depicting Michael the Archangel show him in armor usually crushing Satan beneath his feet.
Hierarchy and Types
According to early tradition, there are nine choirs of angels:
The different groups of these spirits are called choirs because it is said in the Bible they are constantly praising God in song. The exact hierarchical order of the nine choirs was a matter of dispute among theologians; the order above follows that used by Aquinas, and by Dante in his Paradiso. Other speculative orderings of the ranks of the angelic choirs agree with Aquinas and Dante only on the relative positions of the Seraphim and Cherubim at the top and the Archangels and Angels at the bottom. Dominions have been placed above Thrones or above Principalities, Powers above Virtues, and Principalities above Powers, or Powers above Dominions.
The Bible reveals the existence of a multitude of spirits, and even the existence of a spiritual hierarchy. Within the ranks of hierarchy, the Bible refers to archangels, seraphim, cherubim, principalities, powers and authorities as well as angels. There are beings known as the sons of God, who, from the context, are clearly spiritual beings, whether they are or are not angels is not stated.
The Angel of the Lord
- Main Article: Jesus Christ
At various places, the Bible refers to the Angel of the Lord who seems to be more than an ordinary angel. This name is generally taken to describe a christophany (appearance of Jesus) within the times of the Old Testament.
Sons of God
- Main Article: Benei Ha'Elohim
The Benei Ha'Elohim are a group of beings mentioned in passing in the Old Testament book of Genesis 6:4 . It is unclear what the Sons of God were, but they are distinguished from the daughters of men. There are at least three schools of thought regarding these beings. In Job 1:6 Job 2:1 , it states that one day, the "Sons of God" (Hebrew "ben 'elohiym") came to present themselves before God, with Satan among them. The same phrase, Sons of God, is used in Genesis 6:2-4 , in stating that the Sons of God saw the daughters of men were fair, and that they took themselves wives. Verse 4 then says their children became mighty men of renown. The phrase is also used in Job 38:4-7 where it states that when God laid the foundations of the earth, the morning stars (the name 'Lucifer' means "Morningstar" - Isaiah 14:12 and Jesus was called the Morning Star - Revelation 22:16 ) sang together, and all the Sons of God shouted for joy.
Cherubim is the plural translation of the singular form of the Hebrew word, "k@ruwb", pronounced "ker-oob", and is used 91 times in the Old Testament. The suffix "-im" in Hebrew indicates the plural, whether referring to spirit messengers or names of various peoples or nations. Cherub is singular, cherubim is plural. The KJV reading "cherubims" is not proper. While Cherubim appear to be Angels, whether they are a distinct species of them is uncertain. The following traits about them are known, however:
- Guards: They guarded the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve were cast out. (Genesis 3:24 ) They were always used, even in statue, to show the guarding of God's Mercy Seat.(Exodus 25:18-22 , Exodus 37:7-9 , 1Samuel 4:4 , 2Samuel 6:2 )
- Winged: They are described as having huge wings which they used to cover the Mercy Seat. (Exodus 25:20 , Exodus 37:7-9 ) Their wings were also used to cover the Ark of the Covenant. (1Kings 8:6-7 , 1Chronicles 28:18 , 2Chronicles 5:7-8 ) The wings appear to make sound volume comparable to a helicopter, being heard from far away.(Ezekiel 10:5 )
- Transporters: God used them to get around, riding on them as winged vehicles. (2Samuel 22:11 , Psalms 18:10 , Ezekiel 9:3 )
- Huge: Likenesses of them were made ten cubits tall, and with outstretched wings that made them ten cubits wide. (1Kings 6:23-27 , 2Chronicles 3:10-13 ) Egypt also used the cubit as a standard of linear measurement, and it was approximately 1.5-2.0 feet long, making them at least 15–20 feet tall and equally wide when their wings are outstretched.
- Close to God: God sits between two Cherubim.
Seraphim is translated from the Hebrew word "saraph", pronounced "saw-rawf", a word roughly translated meaning "burned" or "to burn", and is only used 9 times in the Old Testament.
Two of these usages occur in Isaiah 6 , verses 2 and 6, where it states that the Seraphim had 6 wings, 2 to cover their faces, 2 to cover the feet, and 2 with which to fly, while they proclaimed, "Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory."(KJV) They are also said to have hands in verse 6, with which one used tongs to take a coal from an altar.
Although all spirits were created by God and therefore were originally good, at some point in time a large number of them rebelled against God and became evil, which is the implication regarding Matthew 25:41 . Biblically, the angels which did not keep their first estate, sinning, God cast into Hell and has reserved in eternal chains under darkness until the great day's Judgment. (Jude 1:6 , Peter+2%3A4&version=NIV 2 Peter 2:4 ) Given the account of this in Judges 9:8-15 and Ezekiel 31 , 'Eden' was not only a garden for the creation of mankind, but the original dwellingplace of the angels (Ezekiel 28:13 , 31+9&version=NIV Ezekiel 31 9 ), with a rebellion that began by many of the angels seeking a king to reign over them. The Fig Tree, Olive Tree, and Vine, each symbolizing an angel or type of angel, refused, while the bramble, Satan, became their leader. Sometime after the fall of the angels, Eden was destroyed and turned into a "desolate wilderness". (Ezekiel 36:35 , Joel 2:3 )
- Main Article: Satan
Satan is the highest ranking of the angels who rebelled against God. He is stated to have corrupted and dragged down with him a third of the angels. These became demons and unclean spirits, according to the Bible. Satan was called "The Anointed Cherubim Who Encloses", and it was said God made him that way. He was on the holy mountain of God, and walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. He was perfect in all his ways until iniquity was found in him, after which he was cast as profane from the mountain of God. (Ezekiel 28:14-16 )
Symbolized as trees
The following are examples where angels (perhaps Cherubim specifically) are symbolized by trees:
- In Judges 9:8-15 it tells a parable of the trees seeking to anoint a king, with the Olive Tree, Fig Tree, and Vine all refusing promotion, and the Bramble accepting, and telling them to put their trust in him or fire will come out to devour the Cedars of Lebanon.
- In Psalms 52:8 David compares himself to an Olive Tree in the house of God who trusts in the mercy of God forever and ever. This is similar also to Psalms 92:12-13 .
- In Isaiah 2:13-14 it speaks of bringing all the proud low, including the Cedars of Lebanon and Oaks of Bashan.
- In Isaiah 14:6-12 it refers to Lucifer the fallen angel (v. 12) and when punished by God, the earth is at rest, with the Fir Trees rejoicing, and the Cedars of Lebanon saying, "since you are laid down, no feller is come up against us."
- In Isaiah 34:4 it is said, "And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree." This prophecy is repeated similarly in Revelation 6:13-14 .
- In Ezekiel 17 it speaks a parable of the Cedars of Lebanon, ending in v. 24 by saying that the Lord has brought down the high tree, has exalted the low tree, has dried up the green tree, and has made the dry tree flourish.
- In Ezekiel 31 the entire chapter speaks of Satan as being Pharaoh, who was a mighty Cedar in Lebanon, how his height was exalted above all the other Cedars of Lebanon (v. 5), and how no other trees were like him in beauty (v. 8) so that they envied him (v. 9). Because of this, he lifted himself up in height and became proud (v. 10) so that God delivered him to the mighty of the gentiles (v. 11). The result is to be that none of the trees will exalt themselves, and are delivered to death, and sent down to the lower parts of the earth and the pit (v. 14). When he went to the grave, God caused a great mourning and mourning among Lebanon, with the trees of the field fainting for him (v. 15). In verses 9 and 16-18 it calls them the "trees of Eden", including Satan among them.
- In Ezekiel 34:4
- In Zechariah 4:11-14 the prophet is shown a pair of Olive Trees which are said to be the "two anointed ones that stand by the Lord of the whole earth."
- In Revelation 11:3-6 John is told God will give power to his two witnesses, and that these are the two olive trees, and two candlesticks. They also have special powers to burn assailants with fire from their mouths, prevent rain, turn water to blood, and smite the earth with plagues.
Reverend Francis J. Connel, Baltimore Catechism #3, pg. 26
- Luke 1:26-38
- Dan 6:22
- Matthew 13:41-42
- Genesis 21:17
- Strong's Hebrew Dictionary. 3742.kerub.
- Merriam Webster. "Cubits."
- C.I. Scofield & Rikkers (2003). "The Scofield Study Bible III." Oxford University Press. p. 611.
- The Bible. 2 Kings 19:15, Psalms 99:1, Isaiah 35:16.
- Strong's Hebrew Dictionary. 8313.seraph.